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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

BARTENDING: from Recollections of WW II

One holiday, it might have been July 4 or Infantry Day in June, Sgt. Luckie told me to be ready for bartender duties that evening at the 274th Officers Club. I was selected because I didn’t drink. I told him I had no idea what a bartender was supposed to do and he said I would be told how to mix drinks and to wear a necktie. Two of us were given the privilege of serving and we were given a jeep to go the several miles down and across the Rhine to this former country club for the German upper class.

When we got there we were given directions on how to mix the drinks. We were given white aprons and shown how to wash the glasses, which were bussed by POWs. Beer was served in steins. I was in a bad mood when I started and got madder as the long evening progressed. I put a beer pitcher under the counter and when the drink glasses came back with some liquid in the glass I poured it into a beer pitcher under the counter. My coworker asked why and I said, “Wait.” When the pitcher was about half full and an officer that I knew and did not like or who I thought had a bad attitude ordered a drink, I put a little from the pitcher into his glass. Also as our rags to wipe the counter became soggy, I squeezed them into the pitcher. My buddy joined in this, adding to the pitcher and pointing out officers that he didn’t like and keeping glasses under the counter on the ready. As the evening progressed and some of the officers became more intoxicated, we would fill their glasses with more recycled drinks. We worked most of the night without food and when we got home we went to the kitchen and the cooks gave us an early breakfast.

This was really two bartending jobs, my first and last.

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Ben the Cook

Ben the Cook
Action shot from the 1970s



I recently made Tuna Helper, following the instructions on the box and adding margine, milk, etc. Priscilla and I had generous portions for lunch. When she asked about my recipe, I pointed to the kitchen table where the box was sitting...and only then noticed the unopened can of tuna sitting next to the empty box.

Well, we enjoyed our macaroni & cheese lunch and already have the tuna on hand to make another box of Helper.


I watched the TV news show "The Eyes of Texas" for years. When in the mid 1980s they announced the publication of a Texas cookbook I wrote down my grandmother's honey cookie recipe. I asked Priscilla to type it, and she mailed it along with several of her personal favorites.

When the book was published Priscilla's recipes were not included but mine was, with a special mention in the cookbook's introduction. I was invited to the signing in Houston, where I got all three of the main Eyes of Texas contributors to sign the front and while standing in line got a number of contributing cooks to sign their recipe pages.

Some might consider the description "somewhat chewy" an understatement. For those who are dentally impaired, I recommend soaking a cookie in milk or hot coffee before trying to chew it. The good news is, these cookies will keep indefinitely.

Eyes of Texas Cookbook introduction:
My great-grandparents August and Caroline Weiss operated the first cotton gin operated by steam, near Salem in Washington County, Texas. They were among the first German settlers in that area. Money was scarce; however, they always had bees and native pecans...consequently, this recipe was a favorite.

1 1/2 pints honey, warmed
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans or other nuts
1 tsp. baking powder
Enough flour for a very stiff dough

Mix all ingredients well. Roll dough out on a floured board and cut with a cookie cutter, or drop the dough in a greased pan and flatten with a floured glass. Bake at 325 degrees until golden brown, with edges slightly darker. These cookies will be somewhat chewy.

Ben's Bio

I was born in Rose Hill, Texas in 1925 and at age 18 drafted into the Army. After my discharge I settled in Tomball, which although a small town had more opportunities than Rose Hill. I ran my own appliance installation and repair business for many years and in 1977 accepted a position as Plant Engineer and Director of Maintenance at Tomball Regional Hospital, where I worked until retirement in the late 1980s. In the 1970s I served two years on Tomball’s City Council, was elected mayor and served for six years during which major streets were paved and guttered, utility lines were extended, and a new jail and city hall were built. After retirement from the hospital I spent time on a genealogy project that included two trips to Germany to visit relatives and look up archival records. I have also gotten into writing, chronicling my WW II experiences and authoring Growing Up in Rose Hill, published by private press and sold as a fund-raiser for the Tomball Community Museum Center, where I have served as a volunteer, trustee and Chairman. I am still involved with the Tomball hospital as a weekly volunteer and serve as General Manager of Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries (TEAM), a church-sponsored operation that provides food and other assistance to area families. I continue to be involved in writing about my childhood and personal interests, and I still enjoy woodworking and other handyman projects. My wife and I still live in Tomball and are not far from most of our 8 surviving children and 14 grandchildren.